Anti-Far-Right Rallies in Germany

neonazis germany
Source: screenshot from German public TV News – It reads, “never Adolf (Hitler): never Björn Höcke (AfD boss)”.

It appears as if Germany’s somewhat sleepy and largely depoliticized middle-class has woken up. Mass rallies against the far-right suddenly broke out as a secret meeting was uncovered; and, the plan to deport millions of people from Germany was the hot topic at the meeting.

The clandestine conference was organized by right-wing extremists, Neo-Nazis, the AfD, and reactionaries’ CDU politicians. Participants at the anti-AfD rallies ranged into well above two million people.

This surreptitious Neo-Nazi/AfD conference planned the forced elimination of millions who – as defined by the AfD – don’t fit into the Neo-Nazi ideology of an Aryan Volksgemeinschaft.

This meeting took place in late November 2023 and was held very close to the location of Hitler’s original 1942 Wannsee conference where the Holocaust was planned.

By early 2024, mass rallies against the deportation plan, against Neo-Nazis and its political party, the AfD took place all over Germany reaching well over 500 locations. The secret deportation meeting that preceded all this was documented by the investigative reporters.


During the cold, rainy, winter weeks, thousands of people demonstrated against German Neo-Nazis in both small and big cities, in towns, and in villages. Yet, many feel that their anti-AfD alliances has a long road ahead of fighting the seemingly unstoppable rise of the AfD that moves from one electoral success to the next.

The neo-fascist AfD is still riding high in recent public polls – up to 34% (in Saxony). While others see a decline of the AfD. Yet, civil society has been standing up against the right – and there is no end in sight:

  • on Monday the 5th of February 2024, people in Frankfurt took to the streets;
  • on Tuesday it was in Deggendorf, Bavaria;
  • on Wednesday, it was in Celle, Lower Saxony;
  • on Thursday it was in Seelow, Brandenburg; and,
  • on Friday it was in Markkleeberg, Saxony.

Since Correctiv reported about the Potsdam meeting of Neo-Nazis and AfD a few weeks ago, people have been alarmed. New alliances, local initiatives, churches, trade unions, democratic parties, and committed individuals have been mobilizing people to take part in anti-far-right rallies in many places.

This mass mobilization and country-wide solidarity against the far-right has strengthened the feeling that people are not alone. Meanwhile, many particularly large demonstrations have been announced for the coming weekends.

More than 40 demonstrations were held against the far-right, Neo-Nazis, and the AfD on the first Saturday of February 2024 and a good 20 more followed the next day. With a lot more people in attendance than what rally organizers had expected.

AfD Slips in Public Polling – An early success of the Rallies against the Far-Right

Initiators and organizers of anti-far-right rallies hoped that their local alliances will last and that further anti-Neo-Nazi activities will unfold in the coming weeks and months. Unsurprisingly, these mass rallies seem to have achieved a first effect.

By mid-February, the AfD slipped to 18% in an Ipsos’ public poll – down from above 20%. In view of the mass demonstrations all over Germany to defend democracy, it has become increasingly difficult – if not impossible – for many moderately conservative voters to continue supporting the AfD. This may well be a first success.

Worse, in a repeat of an election – the original 2021 Berlin state election of 26th September 2021 was declared invalid due to irregularities – in the non-AfD-stronghold city of Berlin (11th February), the AfD still managed to gain 1% in voter support.  

The AfD is inextricably linked to history. Beyond the recent rallies, there are many people in Germany who have worked tirelessly to ensure that the memory of the victims of Nazism remains alive.

It is those who have been Germany’s right-wing extremists as well as young people, too, who are speaking at the many Nie wieder ist jetztNever Again is Now!” rallies.

At one of the earliest rallies in Berlin in December 2023, one of Germany’s most popular singer, super star, and song-writer Herbert Grönemeyer gave a passionate speech on democracy, on multiculturalism, and against anti-Semitism, and the far-right.

Traditionally, songs like Last Christmas or Jingle Bells could be heard playing through loudspeakers in German Christmas markets. However, since the secret Neo-Nazi/AfD deportation meetingWannsee 2.0 – became public, things have changed.

At Berlin’s Christmas market, a special musical surprise made an appearance. Herbert Grönemeyer suddenly appeared between Christmas trees, mulled wine, and a carousel. The musician and songwriter of Mensch – human – sang his latest production “Kaltes Berlin” for the stunned audience.

The ballad-like song describes a seemingly cold city in which hope, and empathy often remain hidden. The Huffington Post calls Grönemeyer as Germany’s biggest pop star and he was supported by the Rundfunkchor Berlin when he performed at the Christmas Market in the Kulturbrauerei (a local brewery) at the Prenzlauer Berg district in Berlin.

The crowd at the Christmas market were enthusiastic as Grönemeyer and the choir presented the song right away. After singing, he outlined his arguments for a peaceful and respectful cooperation.

Grönemeyer then spoke against anti-Semitism and Racism. A total of up to 3,200 people took part in the rally under the German-wide motto “Never Again is Now!” called by a broad alliance of different institutions and organizations.

Days earlier, Grönemeyer had announced the rally on his Instagram profile asking people to show their faces for a peaceful and respectful co-existence, and to work against anti-Semitism, Jew hatred, racism and xenophobia. Meanwhile, many rally participants all over Germany were holding up signs saying:

  • F*** AfD” which Germans shorten to “FCK AFD”,
  • The “AfD is a brown swamp”,
  • “1933 – Never again!”,
  • “We had Nazism once – it was Shit!”,
  • “AfD = Alternative for the Dumb”,     
  • “Racism is no Alternative!”, and many more.

So by early February 2024, as it appeared, Germany’s middle class has woken up. Still, many people remain worried about the secret Potsdam meeting of Neo-Nazis and AfD people.

In addition, if one would have asked many people three months ago if they would be against banning the AfD, lots of people might have said that they would.

Today however, this has changed. In fact, many are now in favor of it. And some believe that if the AfD isn’t banned, it might be too late. Consequently, there is now even a website called: afd-verbot.de. And a petition to ban the AfD has collected 800,000 signatures to date.

The support to ban the AfD has shot up since the correctiv’s report on the secret mass deportation meeting broke. Many locals who organized anti-far-right rallies has established or used contacts to set up broad anti-AfD associations.

These are supported by trade unions, religious communities, democratic parties, and business associations.

Today, Germany’s businesses, CEOs, and corporations have argued strongly against the far right and the AfD. Even the president of Germany’s all-powerful car industry spoke out against the AfD declaring the economic policy of the AfD an “outright catastrophe for Germany”.

In contrast to the 1930s, German businesses in 2024 favor markets – and no longer conquering Lebensraum.

Meanwhile, many German companies have shown their colors by openly positioning themselves against the far right and the AfD. Germany’s corporate bosses feel that the reputation of their businesses and the location of Germany as a place to do business is also in danger.

They think that now is the time when businesses must put themselves out in the public eye. And businesses do not just want to get applauded for it; they also want to play an active part.

Some of Germany’s industries have come to terms with what their companies did during Hitler’s Nazi regime and their involvement in the Holocaust. For many leaders of businesses, a commitment against Neo-Nazis and for a democratic society is part of their fight against the far right.

Even better, some have been working on the preservation of the memory of the Shoah. Others have supported Jewish survivors. Today’s rallies against Neo-Nazis, the AfD, and the far-right remain inevitably linked to German history.

Meanwhile, in a small town of Siegburg on the river Sieg, various locals spoke to 3,000 demonstrators. The speaker noted, in assessing the Neo-Nazi deportation conference in Potsdam, that she is a part of what today’s Neo-Nazis call “the non-assimilated Germans”.

She said, I also do not belong to their model state. The Neo-Nazi’s model state is Hitler’s pure Aryan Volksgemeinschaft.

These are the kinds of people that German Neo-Nazis call “undesirable people” in their race-based fantasies of white power and racial supremacy.

The church’s speaker didn’t want to imagine a Germany based on the pure Aryan race but said that such fantasies will have bitter consequences, and that people should vigorously act against this. She further said, together we are stronger than them.

At the same time, in the town of Sankt Augustin, about 58,000 locals rallied against the AfD. People who came were from all kinds of different political directions.

It was a local alliance of the Protestant and Catholic churches, as well as the political parties: CDU (conservative), SPD (progressive), Greens (environmental), and FDP (neoliberal). They had formed a local citizen initiative called “Aufbruch!” or new departure.

They had organized a rally appropriately named “Wir gegen Nazis” – We against Nazis. It took place on a Friday evening in front of the local town hall where a carnival samba troupe provided the rhythm.  

For the organizers, it was important to carry on fighting the far right. For many of them, the Neo-Nazi’s openly demanded mass deportation does not have so much to do with party politics, but with the disregard for human rights.

For participants, Germany’s Neo-Nazis and the far-right is attacking human rights. They feel that society has reached a point when it has to come together to fight the far right.

They also believe that “being apolitical no longer works when freedom as a whole is at risk”. They want to defend themselves against any political party that has racism and anti-Semitism in its program. The rise of racism and anti-Semitism already had dire consequences.

Motivated by racism, Neo-Nazis started to act. In one of the most repugnant incidents, it led to the murder of local politician Walter Lübcke by a Neo-Nazi on June 2019.  And it is only now that an alliance against the far-right has been formed in a town close to Lübcke’s office in the city of Kassel.

Meanwhile, a nearby school in the town of Wolfhagen in the north of Hessen has been re-named after Walter Lübcke. By renaming the school, the school has established an obligation to stand up for democracy.

Not surprisingly, the local anti-far-right rally in the town of Wolfhagen started on a Saturday at the schoolyard of the Walter Lübcke School for which many students also came.

There may have been long standing alliances against the right in other places – but not so in the 13,000-strong Wolfhagen. This was despite the fact that the popular politician Lübcke was killed after he had campaigned for the accommodation of refugees.

It is noteworthy that already at the first mobilizing committee meeting, while preparing for the anti-far-right rally, many locals quickly realized that they were all new to this and had never been to a rally before.

Yet, all democratic parties and the local churches took part in the alliance named, “Wolfhagen remains colorful.” It means being against brown which is the color of the Nazis.

Unsurprisingly, the actual initiative for the anti-far-right rally did not come from an institution or the state. It came from local citizens. Locals thought that they had to get up and guide the whole thing into the proper direction.

After the Correctiv’s report about the mass deportation plans of Neo-Nazis was issued, many locals thought that they have to resist, and that this is a necessity. They also believe that it is their joint responsibility to:

  never stop watching the far right!  

Thomas Klikauer is the author of over 950 publications including a book on Alternative für Deutschland: The AfDpublished by Liverpool University Press.

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